Spectrum Concerts Berlin

Hindemith: Clarinet Quintet

(CD - Naxos #572213)

Review by

The late '30s marked a period of feverish composition for Paul Hindemith. Specifically, it was during this time that he produced an abundance of chamber music including sonatas for virtually every orchestral instrument. This Naxos album focuses on the chamber works featuring the clarinet, including the more impassioned Quartet for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, the aloof Sonata for clarinet and piano, and the robust Quintet for clarinet and string quartet (which he began in 1923 but did not complete until 1955). Performing these variously configured works is Spectrum Concerts Berlin, a chamber ensemble founded in 1988 by American cellist (also heard here) Frank Dodge. For the most part, the performances seem to focus more on the academic, objective qualities of the music, rather than implying their own sense of musical meaning to the score. For an academician like Hindemith, this is not a bad thing; giving listeners precisely what is on the printed page and only that is a successful approach. The one voice that seems to depart from this sensibility is, ironically, Dodge himself, whose playing is far more soulful and romanticized than his fellow musicians. Naxos' sound is pleasantly clean and intimate.

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